I’m not saying I have TB, but I’m also not saying that I don’t have TB.


This [post]( reminded me of something that happened almost 20 years ago.

I had just started working at a call center. I had been there about 2 weeks. At the same time I got surgery on my sinuses to resolve some ongoing issues. Post surgery I had to wear something that resembled a plug to prevent the blood coming out my nose streaming down my face. It looked like some sort of medieval torture device. It was impossible to miss. I also sounded weird when I spoke due to the build-up of blood and mucus while my body healed.

By chance one of my coworkers was a germaphobe I’ll call Luke. Upon arrival Luke would wipe down with saniwipes all of his equipment. During his shift he would avoid shaking hands or anything involving touching other people. He made it a point for his food preparations to avoid our lunch room. He thought the room was gross/unsafe, I thought it looked like any other break room in average office (that may be one and the same thing). Etc etc.

Since I was new to the call center I hadn’t explained in advance to my friends/coworkers when the surgery was scheduled, why I would leave early one day, etc. I was and am a keep-to-myself person, so aside from my manager I didn’t initially explain why I was wearing the thing or why I sounded strange.

When Luke saw me the first time post surgery he gave me a longer appraisal than everyone else. I noticed he was giving me side eye throughout the rest of that day. Okay, I enjoy a prank as much as the next man, let’s do this.

I began leaving my workstation open with “how contagious is tuberculosis” searches on my screen. I began bringing in pamphlets on TB and reading them prominently. I started coughing from time to time (Post a coughing session I would sometimes leave a little blood on my face.) I started leaving formal looking “test results” on my desk. I informed a few coworkers that I could not share food, and I avoided the potluck that we had at the time. Now that I was committed to the prank whenever anyone asked about the face-plug I would just say that I had a medical issue and not to worry about it.

I was going to gradually start sitting closer and closer to Luke over a week or so, until I was coughing right next to him. Or more accurately, *on him*. Unfortunately my manager was not a participant in this prank, so after the second day of operation “I have TB” he casually mentioned to Luke that no, I did not have TB. It was just surgery on my sinuses to resolve a blockage from a car accident, to help with allergies, etc. Stop freaking out, it’s not even a disease, his body just needs to heal, now get out of my office.

Luke put two and two together and held a mild grudge against me for months, but eventually we became good friends. He was quite friendly aside from his incredible need to sanitize anything around him. Even so, I am still disappointed I didn’t get to watch him run screaming from the call center spraying himself with lysol.

**EDIT**: This sort of kidding around was one common way folks in the call center blew off stress. It alternated hourly between stretches of tedium for all agents and bursts of panicked activity for all agents. Where do you think I got the idea? Beforehand I had heard Luke describe a few pranks he pulled and had pulled on him. Once he tried to convince someone that they had run over a fellow coworker in our parking lot. He spent months trying to gaslight someone he found annoying that he was a Chinese agent looking to smuggle tech out of the US into China. In the end Luke understood.


What do you think?

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I love when callers don’t end the call right away and have a full conversation with the person next to them.

Making fun of my accent